Serbia took a 1-0 lead over India when their No.1 player Dusan Lajovic defeated an inconsistent Yuki Bhambri 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in the first singles of the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie here Friday.
The straight sets win was anything but straightforward as the 22-year-old Bhambri, ranked 153 to Lajovic's 61, pushed the Serb all the way but paid the price for inconsistency while blowing a 4-1 lead in the third set.
The 24-year-old Lajovic, playing just his fourth Davis Cup tie, looked more solid of the two and was able to lift his game when it mattered.
After battling through a first set, Lajovic cruised through the second before falling behind in the third. But courtesy some unforced errors by Bhambri, who failed to convert a 4-1 advantage, the Serb held his nerve to eventually run out a deserving winner.
There were brief periods when Bhambri looked to be in good nick with some quality winners but was unable to sustain the level of play, something that Lajovic was able to, and that eventually separated the two.
In the first set, the two traded early breaks before Lajovic came up with a decisive break in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead and then held serve in the ninth for the set.
Lajovic, though, had to work twice as hard to clinch the crucial ninth game that witnessed eight deuces with Bhambri having his share of chances to break while the Serb seemed a tad too anxious and committed a bunch of errors that, to his good fortune, went unpunished.
The second set was rather tame in comparison with Lajovic building on two breaks of serve in the third and fifth to go 2-0 up to put Bhambri under pressure.
Lajovic appeared a bit too casual at the start of the third set and Bhambri, needing no second invitation, raced to a 4-1 lead, breaking the Serb in the fourth game.
However, just when Bhambri appeared to be on top, Lajovic fought back with a series of winners on either flanks even as the Indian committed far too many errors to let his opponent back into the set.
Lajovic broke Bhambri in the seventh and again in the 11th before holding serve quite comfortably to clinch the match and give the 2010 champions and 2013 runners-up Serbia a 1-0 lead.